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China's Coal Imports Surge 200% but Its Trade Surplus is the Third Highest in History

China's net trade surplus was the largest ever in October and third largest in November.
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China's Exports 2021-11

China's coal imports surged 200 per cent in November, Export Growth Sowed to the Third Largest Ever with October being the largest. 

China’s exports grew by 22 per cent in November compared with a year earlier, down from 27.1 per cent growth in October

China’s imports rose by 31.7 per cent last month, year on year, up from 20.6 per cent growth in the previous month, driven by a 200.3 per cent increase in coal imports

Imports rose by 31.7 per cent in November from a year earlier, to US$253.81 billion – up from the 20.6 per cent growth in October, according to data from China’s General Administration of Customs.

The value of crude oil import rose by 80.1 per cent from a year ago to US$24.66 billion in November, although in volume terms, it was down by 7.9 per cent to 41.79 million tonnes.

Export Strength Not Surprising Says Michael Pettis

  • China's exports in November were up 21.2% annually, compared to two years ago, and its imports up 17.4% annually. That resulted in a $71.7 billion trade surplus for the month, its third largest ever (October's was the largest).
  • Once again these high surpluses shouldn't come as a surprise. Beijing's attempts to restrain growth in debt and non-productive investment in the property sector must be balanced by some combination of higher consumption, lower growth, or expanding trade surpluses.
  • The last of these is the path of least resistance. Exports from January to November were up 15.7% annually compared to 2019, and imports up 13.6%. China's trade surplus year to date was equal to roughly 4% of its GDP, or more than 0.8% of the GDP of the rest of the world.

Pettis' Tweet Chain

"Trade Wars are Good and Easy to Win"

Balance of Trade in Billions of Dollars 2021-09

Trump insisted for years that "Trade wars are good and easy to win."

They are neither, but Biden has largely kept Trump's tariff policies intact, even upping tariffs of Canadian lumber.

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What Trump accomplished, as I stated in advance, was shifting imbalances. Imports from China morphed into imports from Vietnam and Taiwan.

There are some benefit as well as risks to a shift of imports from China to elsewhere, but fixing trade deficits certainly isn't one of them.

And what does a 200% surge in coal imports say about China's commitment to reduce greenhouse gasses?

US Trade Deficit in Microchips Shifts From China to Taiwan

In case you missed it, please note that US Trade Deficit in Microchips Shifts From China to Taiwan

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